moneyBold leadership is needed to tackle the gap in investment between mental and physical health, providers of mental health services have said.

The call, by the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, came ahead of the imminent arrival of Simon Stevens at the helm of NHS England.

The Network wants Stevens to demonstrate a commitment to parity between mental health and physical health. The call sits alongside the mental health sector’s continued challenge of unequal funding reductions for acute hospitals and mental health services.

At its 2014 annual conference, which focused on the future of mental health over the next 20 years, the Network says the Government’s pledge on parity of mental and physical health must be matched with parity of funding.

At the conference, the Network launched The future of mental health: #MHN2014, which says projections for a significant gap in investment are a major cause for concern among members, and that bold leadership is vital to tackle it.

The paper sets out challenges facing mental health and mental health services, including demographic changes and economic challenges. It says that a coherent plan is essential if the sector is to meet the future demands it will encounter. 

It also challenges providers of mental health and learning disability services to be ready for the future by developing innovative new models of care, make better use of technology to deliver more efficient services, and develop a consensus on how the sector’s future workforce should look.

Chief executive of the Mental Health Network, Stephen Dalton, said: “Mental health services are at a tipping point. After decades of transformational change and improving care within resources available, it’s now time for the Government to play its part and recognise the importance of mental health.”